Mental Health Counselors
Training and Education
|Recommended Degree Level||Master's|
|Number of Jobs, 2012||115,080|
|Annual Job Growth Rate||4.9%|
|Job Openings per Year (est.)||6,940|
- Most mental health counselor positions require a master's degree in counseling, psychology or a related mental health fields.
- Students can typically enroll in a master's degree program with a bachelor's degree from a wide range of fields.
- Online counseling education training is also available.
Most education programs include an internship which allows students to work with a licensed or certified mental health counselor. During an internship participants gain vital knowledge and skills to help patients.
What you study:
- Cultural awareness
- Counseling theory
- Group counseling
- Cognitive psychology
- Counseling psychology
Briefly introduces the mental health counseling career. Produced for the US Department of Labor.
A Day in the Life
As a Mental health counselor you'll treat clients with emotional disorders. You'll evaluate, diagnose and treat patients for a wide array of personal issues. Mental health counselors help clients deal with mental illness and to integrate new strategies and coping skills into their everyday lives. You may provide individual, family and group counseling sessions. You might work as a part of a team with psychiatrists or psychologists.
On a daily basis you'll spend the majority of your time helping people to address their problems and to improve their mental and emotional well-being. You'll work with your patients as they develop insights into themselves and their relationships. You'll guide your patients in developing strategies and skills for dealing with their condition.
You'll prepare and maintain treatment records and reports and gather information about patients through interviews and observations. You'll develop treatment plans. You may also help in finding helpful services. As a mental health counselor you may help clients with addiction and substance abuse problems and clients with family and marital problems.
Certifications and Licensing
The licensing requirements for mental health counselors vary by state and by the area of specialization, however, in most states mental health counselors are required to have a master's degree in counseling and 2 years or 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience outside of the master's degree program. Candidates are usually required to pass a state-recognized exam. Also mental health counselors are usually required to complete yearly continuing education requirements.
Mental health counselors take the National Board for Certified Counselors exam to become a nationally recognized certified counselor. Candidates must have a master's degree to take the exam. After receiving a nationally certified counselor certification and completing the required hours working with patients, mental health counselors can take an additional exam to become a certified clinical mental health counselor.
Full-time versus part-time: Most mental health counselors work 40 hours a week. Some counselors work in the evenings and during the weekends to accommodate their clients' schedules or to help people and families dealing with a crisis.
Work location: Schools, community centers, hospitals, government agencies, mental health facilities and private practice settings.
- The American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA) provides facts about mental health counselors. Students who join the American Mental Health Counselors Association have the opportunity to supplement their education program with real-world applied learning opportunities. The AMHCA provides continuing education choices online, in print and in person. The AMHCA also has a job board. Individuals can also connect with peers nationwide via the Graduate Student Committee. Students can build a network of peers and practicing professionals.
- The American Counseling Association (ACA) provides students an array of resources. The ACA helps students with their personal and professional growth. The American Counseling Association also provides networking opportunities. The ACA Conference & Expo offers an array of networking and educational offerings. Students attending the ACA Conference & Expo have opportunities to meet peers, counselor educators, scholars and authors.
- The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) offers a state board directory as well as exam, registration and state licensure information. The NBCC administers four national examinations. Three of the exams are used for national certification and state counselor licensure.
- Occupational Outlook Handbook -- Created by the US Department of Labor, this article on mental health counseling (with coverage of marriage and family therapy careers) gives a snapshot of this career through various statistics and descriptions.